A couple of moths ago we posted an article about the Tuya platform, but we got a number questions about it. The Tuya platform sneaked its way into our reviews, with more and more new products that are compatible with Tuya. We also wrote a brief tutorial about the Smart Life app, but its main focus was on integrating Tuya into the Home Assistant and Domoticz Smart Home Systems. This article is about getting started with Tuya. We discuss what the Tuya platform is and why it is so appealing. Next, we discuss starting with Tuya (hint: just download the Tuya Smart Life app). And after discussing some disadvantages, we list a number of the best Tuya compatible products that you can order right away to get started with Tuya.
What is Tuya?
Before we get started with Tuya, just a small recap on what Tuya actually is: Tuya Smart is a global Internet of Things platform that enables products for consumers, brands, OEM manufacturers and retail chains. Tuya does not produce smart home products, but provides a platform for other smart home manufacturers. So it takes care of the backend technology of connecting a smart device to the cloud and provides the tools to suppliers to easily create their own smart home app.
Suppliers can easily register their smart home devices in on the Tuya platform and enable them for the Tuya Smart Life, Tuya Smart or a white label version of the same app. Since this process is relatively easy, it makes it very attractive for the smaller manufacturers of smart home devices to choose for Tuya and focus mainly on the development of the product, instead of the creation of the cloud-part and the app to control the device.
The company Tuya
Tuya Smart is a company has been around since 2014 and was founded by a number of former employee of Alibaba. They already have a global footprint, with headquarters in China, India, Japan, the United States, Germany and India. With their 4A IoT Platform they support IoT Devices regardless of product, protocol, region or supplier. This vision has been a big success, since at the moment the company Tuya has over 180,000 clients in over 190 countries who are delivering over 90 000 ‘Powered by Tuya’ products, covering 500 types of products. This makes Tuya the market leader in the smart home industry, which even includes lighting, appliances, entertainment and security solutions.
Why starting with Tuya?
- All Tuya compatible devices work from the Tuya app.
- You can reach your devices from everywhere over the world.
- Works over WiFi and you don’t need a gateway for a large part of the devices.
- More and more suppliers join Tuya and so more devices become available. And these devices span a large range of products, even including household and kitchen appliances.
- It integrates well with your smart home system.
- Integration with third party applications, like Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
- Supports Tap-to-Run and Automations.
- It is free for the consumer.
- Need an account and your data is stored in the cloud.
- Reading a sensor over the Tuya network can be a bit slow, especially compared to a local Zigbee sensor.
- For some devices you still need a gateway (Zigbee).
- Does not work with other proprietary Smart Home systems like Philips Hue and Ikea Tradfy.
- Because the large variety of different devices is pairing a new device not always straightforward.
- Since May 2020, Tuya has stopped supporting the IFTTT platform.
Your first steps on the Tuya platform
Getting started with Tuya is quite easy. Since in most cases you don’t need a bridge or device hub, you just need three things: a Tuya compatible device, the Tuya app and a Wireless internet connection.
You need an additional hub if you want to combine Tuya with Zigbee device. So if you want to go Zigbee and Tuya, you can check our recently reviewed Alfawise Z1 Smart Home Security Kit. This kit contains a Zigbee Gateway and is Tuya compatible.
First you need to find a device that is supported by the Tuya network. The biggest platform to buy Tuya products is Aliexpress. Since a lot of suppliers are developing Tuya compatible devices, there is a big chance you will find a Tuya compatible device in your local store. Just check the packaging if there is a ‘Tuya compatible’ logo.
Tuya has two apps: the Smart Life app (Android, iOS) and the Tuya Smart App (Android, iOS). As we indicated before, choosing for the Smart Life App is your best starting point. Since this app support IFTTT and the Tuya Smart App does not. You can also choose for a branded version of the Smart Life app, but this is a copy of the official Tuya apps and it will work in a similar way.
So download the Tuya Smart or Smart Life App, register and login. Now you can connect the device with the Tuya network. First put the app in discovery mode by selecting the type of device you want to add. Next, you need to put the device in pairing mode. In most cases, you need to refer to the manual to check how to put the device in this mode. In the easiest scenario you just hold a pairing button for a couple of seconds. For some of the lights you have to quickly switch them off and on for a couple of times before they start blinking and switch into pairing mode. The app will recognize the device and add it to your devices list. After that you can control and manage your device and add automations.
Flashing your Tuya devices
In order to use a Tuya compatible device, you will need to connect it to your WiFi and register it in the app. But there are ways around this. By flashing the device you can load open source software on the device which does not require the Tuya cloud to function. In this way you can keep the data in your home. Initiatives like Tuya Convert allow you to flash a number of Tuya compatible devices. You don’t need to solder but can do it over the air. You still need to have a backend system to monitor, control and read your devices. So therefore this works best if you have a smart home system like Home Assistant or Domoticz installed. This system will take over the functions of the Tuya Smart Life app.
Easy flashing = security risk?
The fact that Tuya devices can be flashed also pose a security risk. Since you are able to Tuya devices to connect to an emulated Tuya cloud, potentially someone with bad intentions can do the same with your devices. And this is without you even knowing it. According to a German Security Expert, this is because of the flawed configuration process. This has to do with the known and documented protocol combined with fact that at some points during registration the Tuya device uses unencrypted connections.
So you should be extra careful when registering new Tuya devices and keep in the back of your mind that the firmware might not be the original one and can even be malicious. But to be honest, also the more reputable brands like Philips Hue are not immune to be hacked by third parties. So this not something specific to Tuya, but a challenge for all the IOT platforms of these days and the way to safely connect low powered devices to them. These attacks are very specific and there is no proof that these are applied on a large scale, so just being aware that it is an option and keeping your devices up to date is the best you can do.
Buy Tuya products
There are thousands of Tuya products. Under several brands/models and names. Blitzwolf, Alfawise but also less known brands. In The Netherlands LSC is one of the most sold Tuya compatible brands. Their devices are sold at Action, but the product range is limited (lamps, switches, sensors). Therefore we picked a product, for every kind of usage, at AliExpress. Different brands products, but all compatible with Tuya without a gateway (zigbee) all Wifi products.
On Banggood you can find products from Blitzwolf and many more.
LED Stripslink naar onze reeds geteste blitzwolf
smart socket plugs
roller blind motor kit
Chain Roller Blinds
smart irigation system
Tuya in your own Smart Home Platform
The Tuya app and platform has native support for Google Home and Amazon Alexa. As mentioned before, they just stopped supporting IFTTT after May 2020, which is a iffy move that changes the both the business case and the perceived maturity of the platform. If a company just can decide to stop supporting such a platform, is it worth your money?
At this moment there are functioning integrations in both Home Assistant and Domoticz for Tuya. Not all functionalities are there and not all devices are supported, but if they are supported you can add the devices into your system and combine them with the functions of the smart home systems. You should definitely do your research before you decide to buy Tuya products to integrate in your smart home.
We already wrote an article about adding smart life/tuya products into home-assistant.